Everyday’s a crisis

Or, it can be.

Crisis communications used to have a special aura about it.

Those who preached, practiced and had a plan in place for it were seen as more on the 400-level of public relations. A big drawn out plan to prepare a company for a shooting, an accident, an explosion, massive layoffs or a plant closing.

But really, how many of you have or helped develop a crisis communications plan?

Me? One, maybe two in about 20 years’ experience. At least not any on the grand, formal scale of “crisis communications.”

Real crisis communications, however, does not only occur when the obvious disaster happens. It happens via an inadvertent tweet or a tweet in poor judgment.

It can happen in a critical Facebook comment.

Or, it can occur when someone complains about a poor experience in service or with a product.

As we’ve seen, it’s negativity that makes news and “goes viral;” not always positive content. You don’t always need a big established network to get some attention.

As you keep an eye on your digital audience and company or client’s reputation, always be on guard for a possible spark of a crisis.

Always watch and when you see something suspicious that could erupt into a crisis, ask and answer these questions:

  1. Is the situation emotion- or fact-based?
  2. What’s the potential initial impact? RTs? Comments? Forum posts? Likes? Shares? Media pickup? Trolls piling on?
  3. Is an immediate response required? Or, should you watch what happens over the next hour? Over the next 24 hours?
  4. Should you make legal aware?
  5. Should your customer service team get involved?

If you respond ….

What’s your best soap box? Every company should have one. It’s a place where the company, via a company representative can talk directly to its audience. A blog is ideal, even if it’s not regularly used. A Facebook, Twitter or YouTube channel is secondary.

Don’t get involved in emotion. You’ll never win. Companies, brand and organizations are usually the Goliath to any David with an issue. And we know how that ended.

Write realistically. Keep your response clear and human. Being humble and even having a sense of humor about the situation (depending what it is), helps how people view you. If your legal team is involved, try to minimize the legalese or you’ll lose credibility.

Don’t down play the concerns or complaint. Again, you don’t want your company to look like you’re trying to squish “the little guy.” Many complaints have some validity and many outcrys come from a well-intentioned place.

Crisis can come in varying sizes. Don’t downplay or ignore the small ones, because they might grow up. Just keep watch and know when, where and how to respond.


Cross-published from a 2015 LinkedIn Pulse post, and making sure my own content is on my own site.